The days blended in altogether for Tiffany, because her to-do list was always the same. Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, feed her two children, get them dressed, take them to school, go to work at 9, clock out at 6, pick up the children, then head to the hospital to see her Mama. Her mother has been in the hospital for 4 weeks now, as she’s been battling pancreatic cancer. After two unsuccessful surgeries, Tiffany decided to keep her mother in the hospital; she felt that the kids didn’t need to see such a gruesome scene. I mean, all they’ve ever seen was their Grandmama happy. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama strong. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama being the strong Black woman that she was, cooking for them, washing their clothes and giving them a place to stay at night, while their mother got drunk and partied all night long. Besides, they’d always be able to visit whenever their mother deemed it appropriate to bring them by the hospital. Their father had died in a car accident while in route to the hospital while Tiffany was in labor— all they had were pictures and an obituary.
The role of the mother, and the role of the grandmother became severely distorted within the household. It had gotten so bad, that they eventually started calling their Grandmama, Mama. And when both their Grandmama and their ‘actual’ Mama would turn their heads in their direction, they would correct themselves by saying, “Sorry, we meant to call Grandmama.” For all they knew, the only mother that they had was the one who had actually attended their play performances. The one who signed off on their permission slips for their school field trips. The one who make sure that their Christmas was the best Christmas yet. The one who always baked cupcakes for their birthdays, and would make just enough for all of their classmates to partake in the festivities. It was devastating to think about for Tiffany. “Two kids, one son and one daughter. Twins. Both of ’em are 9 years old and they don’t even know how to call their mama correctly.” It became too much to think about, so she’d tuck that in the back of her head and think on other matters.
But as much as she tried to tuck those thoughts in the back of her head, the would always return like a leg cramp, after many attempts at finding a position that would alleviate the pain. What was so natural for her mother, was so arduous for her. The kids just didn’t seem to connect with her the way that they connected with her mother. They didn’t laugh while they were being tickled by their grandmother the same way that they would laugh when their mother tickled them. In the car headed to work, Tiffany recalled how deeply enthralled their laughter were when they were being ticked by their grandmother, and when she tried to join in on the fun, they would look at her as if she’d lost her mind. She just couldn’t connect, and with that brought on jealousy and utter anguish. “What does Mama have that I don’t have?!”, she’d wonder. “What is it about her that they love so much?” “Don’t they love me too?”
Tiffany clocked out of work, picked up Zion and Alainah from school and headed for the hospital. THIS part of the day was the worst for her, because she absolutely hated the smell of hospitals. To her it always smelled like… like death. Like hopelessness and despair, dressed up as something else. Hospitals to her are the equivalence of a bouncy house on the outside, with corpses and bones on the inside. How could something so big and immaculate like a hospital be so dark and lowkey sinister on the inside? She took the elevator to the 8th floor and knocked before entering. She pulled back the curtains and sat in the chair beside the bed. The kids stood on the opposite side of the bed, observing their Grandmama’s slow, deep breaths while she beautifully slumbered. The room was rather small with dim lighting, and the window in the room permitted visitors to see a slab of brick wall–no clouds, no skyline, nothing but brick. She pondered on the negative effects of limited healthcare perks, and how where they place you and how they treat you, all depends on the kind of healthcare that you possess. She’d wished that she could’ve done more to secure a more decent room, but Mama had stated over and over that she was content with the room that she had, and that she was blessed to even have a room to be in.
“Mama, is Grandmama going to be alright?”, Zion asked. He looked on with a face that shared both curiosity and concern for her, and he stroked her leg as if somehow he could send healing power into her. “She’ll be A-Okay”, Tiffany replied with a smile. One thing that she knew about her children, was that they were great at detecting false hope or lies. So when she said it, she smiled really, really hard in hopes that they would find sincerity in her promise. Grandmama made some slow movements, and suddenly, her eyes popped open. She had a few seconds of confusion, but once her eyes focused, she smiled and said with delight, “Oh yes!, I knew my babies would come to see me.” Zion and Alainah both yelled “GRANDMAMA!” in unison, and hugged her tightly. She couldn’t move her arms, so she just took the hug that they gave her and smiled a big ‘ole smile. Her wrinkles on her Hershey, brown skin were emphasized, but Tiffany thought that she looked good anyways, despite her predicament.
“Grandmama, we thought about you all day”, Alainah said with a smile. “Yea, Grandmama, and we even told our teachers about you too”, Zion said. Grandmama, still smiling, replied, “Oh yea? Well, what did you tell them about me?”, she asked in response, looking rather nervous, as children are notorious for saying outlandish, embarrassing things. “We told them that you’re the best mother in the world”, Zion said, before then correcting himself by saying, “I mean Grandmama.” Tiffany leaned back in the chair and pressed her two lips together, as if to show some sort of expression of frustration or agitation.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A doctor stepped in. He was a tall, handsome man, with skin the color of milk chocolate covered almonds, neatly kept dreadlocks that flowed down to his shoulders. He wore clear, rimless spectacles, something like the young looking ones that the college art hipsters like to wear. Tiffany was impressed with his size and his body type. He wasn’t muscular at all, and that was fine. She had always felt that muscular men were overrated, and how so many men today fought too hard to try to mimic those bodies just for the sake of mimicking. He smiled and said, “Good evening, Ms. Tiffany. I see that you brought the kids today.” He smiled, turned to the children and said, “I’m Doctor Hansberry. What are yall’s name?” Zion and Alainah both said their name, and he said, “you both have nice names! Zion and Alainah.” He said their names in such a way that caused them both to smile. He was a natural with children, and Tiffany could easily observe that. They smiled at him and laughed with him in similar ways that they laughed and smiled with their Grandmama. This made Tiffany even more jealous and concerned.
“HOW could they feel so comfortable with a doctor, a damn STRANGER that they JUST met not even 10 minutes ago, and yet they act so disengaged with their own MOTHER!”, she thought to herself. She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard Zion say, “We know Mama will be okay”, with a big grin. Alainah followed it up with, “He meant to say Grandmama.”
Dr. Hansberry smiled. Grandmama smiled. Zion smiled. Alainah smiled.
Tiffany did not.
—— To Be Continued——